Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Telephone Book (Blu-ray Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Nelson Lyon
Written By: Nelson Lyon
Starring: Sarah Kennedy, Norman Rose

The Film
Have you ever seen a woman have sex with a skyscraper? You will in this film. 

Alice is a sweet 18 year old hippie type, sexually free yet strangely innocent. She receives a phone call one day while laying around in bed from a stranger who is perhaps the greatest dirty phone caller of all time. He says all the right things to Alice and gets her juices flowing so much that she can't contain herself and decides to track down this mysterious voice. Her adventure takes her across New York City where she encounters everything from a weird porno film actor who claims to be the voice, to a lesbian with a baby cart. Alice runs into the ludest and crudest, and even gives them a little of their own medicine. She eventually comes face to face with the voice that brought her to the brink of sexual ecstasy where the voice continues to talk to her about his story, eventually giving Alice the time of her life. 

THE TELEPHONE BOOK is a very unique little film. Part stag film but without any hardcore penetration scenes, part comedy, and part hippie culture, director Nelson Lyon melds all the aspects of this picture like some sort of bastard child of Waters and Meyer with a dash of Kubrick thrown in for good measure. It is sleazy, yet at the same time funny and artistic in its editing and composition. Actress Sarah Kennedy is great as a young, doe eyed teen quickly experiencing everything sexual she can while still somehow seeming like she could fit in just fine with the Brady Bunch kids. Among our main narrative are these interview like segments with other obscene callers who discuss why they began to make these phone calls and what exactly they do while calling. This just adds to the overall raunchyness of the film. 

From the film's use of black and white photography until the climax where we are greeted an purely surreal piece of 1970s animation that will strangely remind you of School House Rock, to Nelson Lyon's direction in his only time helming a motion picture (he's best known as a Saturday Night Live writer) THE TELEPHONE BOOK is a dirty, sexy and funny piece of 1970s cinema that deserves to be redisovered with this new release. 

The Video
Vinegar Syndrome presents THE TELEPHONE BOOK in a full HD 1080p transfer, with an anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio that looks like it came straight from a midnight showing in NYC. The transfer has some dirt and scratches and a layer of grain but beneath it lies a pretty good transfer that shows decent facial and textural detail in close ups. The black and white photography is deep in the blacks and looks good with no smearing or blaring contrast problems in the whites. This won't become your favorite new toy because of how shiny it is but you will appreciate that it probably looks pretty damn close to what it would have had you saw it in a sticky seat 40 years ago. The BD/DVD combo pack is region free. 

*Please note that screen grabs were taken from the DVD copy of the film. 

The Audio
I didn't notice any major hissing or cracking in the 2.0 Mono audio track. Dialogue stays comfortably clear and above the soundtrack. The audio and video are very similar in that they both feel true to the film and not overly tinkered with.

The Extras
The star of the extra features is a lively and informative commentary track with the film's producer Merv Bloch in which he discusses various trivia about the film and its history and some Andy Warhol love. We also get a couple of theatrical trailers and radio spots and a still gallery.  

The Bottom Line
THE TELEPHONE BOOK is a hell of a weird movie that deserves an audience discover it and fall in love with all over again. 40 years later this movie is still a dirty little piece of strange film making that you can have fun watching. Vinegar Syndrome did one hell of a job on this release. 


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